Question: "What does it mean that Christ is in us?"

Answer: Many passages of Scripture communicate that Jesus Christ lives within those who trust Him for salvation (2 Corinthians 13:5). While this is an astonishing truth, it isn’t easy to grasp. Not only is Jesus Christ alive today, but through God’s Holy Spirit—called the “Spirit of Christ” in Romans 8:9—He lives and dwells within every child of God. The life of Christ in us is our hope of eternal glory. The apostle Paul called the indwelling of Christ a great mystery: “To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27).

Paul often spoke of Christ taking up residence in the hearts of those who accept Him as Lord and Savior. When he prayed for the believers in Ephesus, Paul longed for their faith to deepen so that Christ would be at home in their hearts: “I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong” (Ephesians 3:16–17, NLT).

When a person believes in Jesus, he or she is united to Christ, first in His death and then in the newness of His resurrection life. The apostle Paul said, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20). Paul explained to the church in Rome, “For we died and were buried with Christ by baptism. And just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, now we also may live new lives. Since we have been united with him in his death, we will also be raised to life as he was” (Romans 6:4–5, NLT).

Our old selves—full of rebellion, sin, and unbelief—died with Christ, who paid the penalty for our sins on the cross. Through our union with Christ in His death, we are made alive by God’s Spirit to walk in the newness of life because we have been made right with God (Romans 8:10). Our lives become a vehicle to display the life of Christ: “For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body” (2 Corinthians 4:6–10; see also Galatians 1:15–16).

In our ordinary human condition of weakness, we are but jars of clay holding a priceless treasure—the life of Christ in us. The challenges we face, the persecution, trials, hardship, and suffering we endure, serve to pour out the all-surpassing power of God and reveal the life of Jesus Christ to those around us. We can rest assured that we will not be overcome in all these afflictions because we have the treasure of Jesus Christ living in us.

In 2 Corinthians 2:15, Paul likened the lives of those who share the gospel to “a Christ-like fragrance rising up to God” (NLT) and “the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing” (NIV). With Christ in us, as we spread the good news of salvation in Jesus, we diffuse His fragrance to a lost and dying world.

In 1 Corinthians 6:19, Paul states, “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own.” After we receive Jesus as Lord, He becomes our master. In the booklet My Heart Christ’s Home (InterVarsity Press, 1954), author Robert Munger imaginatively describes the Christian life as a house. When Jesus enters, He goes from room to room. In the library of our minds, Christ sorts through the garbage, cleaning out the worthless trash. In the kitchen, he deals with our unhealthy appetites and sinful desires. At the dining room table, He serves us the bread of life to satisfy our hungry souls and pours living water for us to drink and never be thirsty again. Through dark hallways and closets, Jesus uncovers all the places where sin hides. He works His way through every nook and cranny until His love, mercy, forgiveness, and grace have filled every space. This allegory presents a beautiful picture of what it means to have Christ in us.